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Support for Manufacturing

Volume 681: debated on Tuesday 29 September 2020

BEIS continues to engage with industry and suppliers to ensure that we can support our manufacturing sectors during and after the covid-19 crisis. This includes an unprecedented package of Government support to help with business continuity and drive recovery after the pandemic.

Steel manufacture is the heart and soul of towns like Stocksbridge in my constituency. It provides high-skilled, well-paid, productive jobs. Once we have left the EU, we will be free to use our procurement processes to favour British manufacturers. Will my hon. Friend commit to grasping this opportunity to make sure that our infrastructure revolution helps to secure the future of British steel?

The Government have helped our steel industry to compete globally by providing more than £480 million in relief to the sector for electricity costs since 2013. We want to ensure that UK steel producers can compete for and win contracts associated with domestic infrastructure investments, including HS2. We are working closely with the sector and other relevant parties to realise these opportunities.

Furniture manufacturing is an enormously important part of the economy in my constituency, with firms such as Ercol and Hypnos Beds located in Princes Risborough. As a result of covid, the industry estimates a 25% to 30% reduction in UK furniture sales this year, with 10,000 jobs at risk. Will my hon. Friend join me in backing the industry’s “Buy the Best, Buy British, Save Jobs” campaign, which is also supported by the all-party parliamentary group on furniture makers, and outline what more she can do to support our furniture makers?

I will be delighted to support that campaign. It is great to see the furniture industry supporting high-quality British manufacturing with its “Buy British” initiative. Now, more than ever, we all need to do our bit by backing British industry to drive jobs, innovation and growth.

Manufacturing industries in my constituency such as Cadbury’s in Chirk—part of the Mondelēz group—Barnett Engineering in Rhos and Ifor Williams Trailers in Cynwyd are the bedrock of the country’s manufacturing sector. Will the Minister comment on how the Chancellor’s announcement of economic measures last week will help these manufacturing companies through the coronavirus crisis?

I welcome the measures announced by the Chancellor last week and agree that manufacturing is a key component of the UK’s thriving industrial sector. The job support scheme will provide eligible manufacturing businesses in Clwyd South with a grant covering one third of all employees’ wages for hours not worked, up to a cap of £697.92 a month. Furthermore, the deadline for applications for coronavirus business interruption loans and the future fund has now been extended to 30 November.

More than 90% of the UK’s manufacturing companies have kept working, even at the height of the pandemic, keeping food on supermarket shelves and medicines and ventilators in our hospitals. However, many of them will face a major crisis when the furlough scheme ends in a few weeks’ time. Demand is still incredibly low in some parts of industry, but Government support is being withdrawn. It is patently obvious that the well-paid and highly skilled jobs that we have in sectors such as aerospace and aviation should be the foundations of our future economic growth and the public will not forget it if the Government allow them to wither on the vine. As the voice of business within the Government—

Order. We cannot read out a speech. It has to be a question, very short and very brief. It is a supplementary.

May I ask the Minister, as the voice of business within the Government, what she is doing to ensure that these vital jobs and skills are being protected?

The hon. Lady will know that the Government are absolutely committed to making sure that businesses are the future of the economy and that we need to get the economy back on track. We have invested billions of pounds making sure that we have all the schemes in place that will enable this economy to thrive.